RHEM

 

Genre:   Adventure

Developer:    Knut Mueller

Publisher:    Knut Mueller & Got Games Entertainment

Released:   2002

PC Requirements:    PC with 300 MHz Pentium or faster, Windows 95, 98, 2000
32MB free RAM, 25MB free hard disk space (minimal), 12x CD-ROM or faster, 640x480 display, thousands of colors (32000/16 Bit) High Color, QuickTime 4 for Windows, Windows-compliant sound card, Videocard (DirectX)

Walkthrough

 

 

 

by Jenny100

RHEM

Quicklist of game characteristics - (requested by Gameboomers members)

  • Gameplay similar to Riven - exploration-based with puzzles geared towards opening new areas of exploration.

  • Hybrid CD - works with either Windows or Mac.

  • Classic point-and-click QuickTime interface.

  • First person perspective.

  • Minimal plot.

  • No dying.

  • Unlimited saves.

  • No timed sequences or action-based puzzles.

  • No interaction with other characters in the game.

Playing RHEM

The game begins with a QuickTime movie. You arrive in RHEM via rail car. Through the window of your rail car you take note of the passing scenery as you journey into RHEM. You travel through a strange landscape with clear, aqua-colored pools of water and strange, tall rock formations with rounded tops that appear to be volcanic in origin. You pass a wrecked rail car by the side of the tracks. A safety bar lifts up as your car approaches the gate to RHEM. A circular bridge area rotates, aligning the rails to allow your car to cross over a canal. Finally your car passes through the gate, the rail car stops, and the game itself starts. The image now takes up about 80% of your computer screen and you are free to move about the world of RHEM. The object of the game is to escape from RHEM and, in the process, discover what you can about why RHEM was created and why you find things to be in the state they are in.

RHEM is a deserted place. It reminded me of nothing so much as a large power plant facility. Most of the game is outdoors, with a few maintenance buildings you'll need to check out. The only living creature you meet in RHEM is a young man who you see briefly in a cut scene. He explains how he's been trapped in RHEM for so long and he's so sorry but he's desperate to get out. Then he steals your rail car and you are left to find another way out of RHEM.

So you are marooned in RHEM. Alone. And the only living thing in RHEM is yourself. There are no trees, no birds, no insects, not a single blade of grass - not even algae in the water as far as I could tell. For me, this was one of the main differences between RHEM and Riven. RHEM is not a beautiful world. It is functional - like a power plant.

RHEM could be compared to a large, open maze. Much of the game is concerned with figuring out how to get to places you can see, but can not yet access. RHEM is full of mechanical puzzles - levers, switches, and various controls which you must figure out how to operate by observing things around you - symbols on the walls, various kinds of switchboxes that yield clues, color patterns, maps, etc. There are lots of symbols to draw and lots of codes to decipher. Unless you have a phenomenal memory, you'll need to take a lot of notes. RHEM is by no means an easy game, but it is logical. The puzzles are well thought out and there are no dead ends.

There is a vast gameworld to explore and you need to explore [i]all[/i] of it before you can solve the game and leave RHEM. You wander around. You find controls which allow you to open gates or rotate walkways. You drain or flood areas to gain access to new locations. Sometimes controls are located at very inconvenient locations. In one place, I had to close a door via some controls, then traverse almost half the gameworld to discover a ladder to a new area was attached to the other side of the door. A sense of direction certainly helps in RHEM. Alas, mine is not what it should be. There is a truly magnificent map of the entire gameworld of RHEM on a UK website that Google found for me. I only wish I'd found it before I played the game. As it was, I floundered through the game not knowing whether I was facing North, South, East, or West, but finding my way by recognizing landmarks.

As you work your way through the game you eventually find a message from someone who spent some time in RHEM. You learn that if you are able to reassemble 4 parts of a message, you will be allowed to leave RHEM to deliver the message. That's what that rectangle under the game screen is about. As you discover the 4 parts of the message, they automatically fit into the rectangle. It's as much inventory as you get in this game.

Installation

The single CD version allows a full install to the hard drive. However you still need the CD in the drive to start the game. It is a hybrid CD and will play on either a Windows PC or a Mac. Windows 95, 98, ME, 2000, and XP are listed as compatible.

RHEM has the unusual feature of offering both an automatic and a manual install. The manual install is fairly easy - just copy a folder to your hard drive for the basic install - or two folders if you want to do the full install. If you want the full install, you have to copy the data folder to the hard drive manually, whether you use the automatic installer or the manual install for the game. The instructions for the full install are near the end of the Readme on the CD.

RHEM has an install for English, French, and German versions.

Graphics

The graphics are sharp and detailed, but somewhat grainy. I was impressed by the variety of detail in some of the images - rusted railings, weathered stone and wood, the interplay of light and shadow where the sun shines through a fence and hits the irregular surface of the pathway. For a game that was originally an independent game made by one person (artist Knut Mueller), the graphics are amazing. They are of course less impressive when compared to games developed by large companies, like Syberia was with Microids. But they are more than adequate to convey a realistic idea of the gameworld.

The Readme advises changing your desktop settings to 640x480 and 16-bit color before starting the game and warns you that problems may occur in the animation movies if you try to run the game in 32-bit color. If you don't change your settings, the game will "remind" you when you try to start it.

Animations are minimal. Usually they are only present to accompany actions you take in the game. For example when you pull a switch, you see the switch move and hear it creak. Other animations include water coming from a pipe, which you have to turn off at some point in the game. The water in the pools and canals around RHEM is not normally animated. When you do see an animation, it is actually a clue that something can probably be done there.

Sound Effects

Sound effects are very good overall. Background sounds do a good job of setting the mood. When you start the game, there is no sound other than the wind blowing and an occasional clank, creak, thump, whirr, or other mechanical noise echoing in the distance. One environmental sound included an ominous low-pitched noise that I couldn't identify. In other areas, such as while crossing the bridge near the reservoir, I heard what sounded like a distant piano - or was it the sound of water. Whatever it was, it suited the mood and the feeling of isolation in RHEM.

Interface

RHEM requires QuickTime 4 or higher and movement is point-and-click, much the same as in other QuickTime games. Moving the cursor around the screen makes it change according to what actions can be taken. There is a listing for "Cursor" on the menu screen which you can select to show illustrations of the various cursor types and the movement associated with them.

There is an option in the menu for changing the speed of transitions. But since transitions are mainly dissolves into the next screen rather than movies that show your actual movement, I didn't find much use for transitions. So I set them to the fastest setting for instant gratification.

There is no "zap mode" or anything like one. In a way it would have defeated the purpose of the game. But I would have appreciated it when I was working on the radar field puzzle and had to do all that backtracking because of the broken bridge.

There are keyboard hotkeys for Open menu, Close menu, Save, Load, and Quit. But most of the game is controlled by the mouse. The menu appears during the game as a toolbar at the top of the screen, similar to the toolbar that appeared in the original Myst game. You can load, save, etc. through the toolbar as well as by using the hotkeys.

Differences between the single CD version and the earlier 3-CD version

Both versions are hybrid CD's and work on either Mac or PC. The full install did not work properly on the 3-CD version. It worked on the Mac, but not on the PC. The only way to get the 3-CD version to play from the hard drive on the PC was to use a CD emulation program. This problem has been corrected in the single CD version.

Note for those with the 3-CD version - RHEM will look for data on all your CD drives, including virtual CD drives. So to avoid disc swapping you can put a different RHEM CD in each of your CD drives if you have more than one. And if you're using a CD emulation program, you can load images of the 3 CD's on 3 separate virtual drives to play completely from the hard drive.

The single CD version has subtitles for the speech during the cut scene. The 3-CD version did not.

In the 3-CD version, one of the listings on the save/load screen was in German in the English version of the game. This has been corrected in the single-CD version.

The graphics looked the same to me on the single CD version as on the 3-CD version. Playing on the slower PII 266 computer, I sometimes noticed static when I clicked forward. This didn't happen with the 1.2 GHz Athlon and I don't remember it happening on the PII 266 with the 3-CD version. I suspect it's due to the sound files being compressed on the single CD version and the PII 266 not being quite able to cope with the decompressing situation seamlessly.

Minimum specs

The minimum specs listed for the game (as listed in the Readme) are

Windows 95, 98, 2000, ME, XP

PC with 300 MHz or faster Pentium,

32 MB of free RAM

25 MB free hard disk space (minimal) or 650 MB (full installation)

12x CD-ROM drive or faster

640x480 display, 16-bit (thousands of colors)

QuickTime 4 for Windows or higher

Windows compliant sound card

Videocard (DirectX)

The requirements for Mac:

200 MHZ or faster Power PC

system 8.5.1 - 9.2 / OS X Classic

32 MB free RAM

25 MB free harddisk space

640 x 480 display, 16-bit-color (thousands of colors)

12x CD-ROM drive or faster

Rhem QuickTime 4 or higher

Tested computers

slower computer:

Win 98 SE

PII 266 MHz

320 MB RAM

17 GB hard drive

4.8X DVD drive

QuickTime 4.12 (from the ROTS CD)

SB AWE 32 sound card

Matrox Mystique 8 MB video card

DirectX 7a

faster computer:

Win 98 SE

Athlon 1.2 GHz

512 MB RAM

15 GB partition

48X CD drive

QuickTime 4.03 (from the Bioscopia CD)

Hercules Fortissimo II sound card

ATI Radeon 8500 128 MB video card

DirectX 8.1

The game was really quite perky on the PII 266 with a full install, even though the processor speed was a little below the listed minimum spec. The main differences I noted between playing on the PII 266 as opposed to the Athlon were the previously noted static when clicking forward (which was minimized by changing Direct Sound to Wave Out under Sound Out in the QuickTime settings) and a slight hesitation of a second or two at the places in the game where there was a CD change in the original 3-CD version. Neither of these flaws appeared when the game was run on the faster computer. I had one crash to desktop when I was playing the 3-CD version - at a point where there was a CD change. I had no crashes at all with the single CD version. Considering how many hours I spent with this game, I consider it very stable - on Win 98 SE anyway.

RHEM and Riven

RHEM has some similarities to Riven. Both feature mechanical puzzles, a large gameworld, and a similar system of navigation. In RHEM the main attraction is its puzzles. Riven also has puzzles, but it also has a living gameworld, full of plant life, creatures like the sunners, and a human population with a cultural history. Riven has incidental music in some game locations that heightened the mystery surrounding those locations. RHEM has no music. There was also the creepy feeling that you'd get while playing Riven when you found things like the hangman mobile in the school. There was nothing particularly creepy about RHEM. It was deserted, but there was no evidence that anything bad had ever happened there. I didn't get the same feeling of mystery in RHEM that I got in Riven.

My unsolicited opinion

I found RHEM to be a nice change from certain recent adventure games that have dumbed down the puzzles and thrown in action or timed sequences in an attempt to attract a wider game audience. At first I was disappointed by the lack of plant and animal life that was present in games like Myst and Riven. But as I got involved with solving the puzzles, I didn't notice that so much. RHEM isn't really a game for sightseeing, but it held my interest better than most other recent adventures.

Recommendations

RHEM is an excellent game for those who are primarily interested in the puzzles. Gamers who want a mental challenge will certainly find one in RHEM. I'd give RHEM top marks for what it sets out to be - an intricate exploration-type adventure full of mechanical puzzles.

Gamers who want to interact with other characters in their adventures won't find any here. The plot is minimal, similar to the plot in Myst in that it's usually in the background while exploration and solving the puzzles is the focus of the game. So people who want a story-driven game may wish to look elsewhere for their entertainment.

If I was going to rate it, I'd say 4 out of 5, with the understanding that not everyone is going to like this type of game - not just because of the absense of characters but because of the sterility of the gameworld (compared to games like Myst and Riven).

Overall Grade:     A-

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